in the ’60s
OVER THE years, several people have wondered, “What happened to the revolution of the 1960s? Was it just a fad?” Author Richard Goldstein may not be the first person to try to answer that question, but so far proves to be the most fluent in his memoir Another Little Piece of My Heart. Goldstein was a rock critic for Village Voice, a weekly newspaper, in the late Sixties and one of the first to treat rock as a serious art form. And going by his memoir, he was in all the right places at the right time: the Monterey Jazz and Pop Festival that launched Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to national prominence, for instance. He was also one of the first advocates for rock band The Doors, whom he interviewed. Goldstein was there when The Doors appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and provides some interesting behind-the-scenes information as well. He also found a kindred spirit in Joplin and befriended her.
The book is his account of how and why rock became the social force it is today. Goldstein says he hates memoirs. Maybe that’s why his memoir is far from being just another self-serving “I-was-there-and-you-weren’t” chronicle of the Sixties. Of the decade’s sincere British bluesmen he writes that “it was strange to hear someone who sang like a sharecropper from the Delta lapse into a Midlands accent for an interview”. Late Sixties rock poetry was, he unsparingly notes, “a set of floating metaphors for a culture that was growing detached from everything but its own tropes”. In one of the anecdotes in the book, he talks about the time Rolling Stone sent him to profile author William
Burroughs. But, Goldstein says, he was so offended by the writer’s view on women and love that he refused to complete the piece.
In a chapter titled Groucho Marxism, Goldstein details his painful politicisation in 1968, the year of street fighting. “I began to transfer my awe from rock stars to radicals,” he states, though he felt wracked by guilt at hiding behind his press badge, as the cudgels connected with skulls. He writes about street demonstrations, even as he admits that he was “hooked on the spectacle of violence, the greatest show on earth”. In the end, the revolution failed because no one wanted the country to fall apart.
Throughout the book, Goldstein doesn’t spare himself his own withering analysis. He’s candid and embarrassed about his ambitions. He’s also forthcoming about his sexuality—he was married to a woman in the Sixties. Now, he lives with a man and identifies himself as bisexual. As the Seventies progressed, Goldstein went on to write, brilliantly and bravely, about sexuality. In fact, this segment of his story would give this memoir an exciting sequel.
Goldstein’s writing makes this book easy to read. He is persuasive and doesn’t sugarcoat. It’s a book to be savoured.